Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Georgia would be a threat in SEC title game

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ATHENS, Ga. — Maybe the Southeastern Conference championship isn’t the foregone conclusion everybody has presumed. Georgia just might be evolving into the conference’s biggest (and most costly) nightmare.

The Bulldogs have been largely dismissed as overrated during a winning streak against less-than-stellar opponents, and Saturday’s thorough undressing of 24th-ranked Auburn probably won’t change a lot of minds.

But if you’re paying attention, Georgia is developing into a team that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Bulldogs fans in Sanford Stadium seemed to have found the faith that had faded since the end of 2007.

“It’s started to get that feeling again where people are starting to believe and we’re starting to get a little better notoriety that maybe this is the Georgia of old,” said Bulldogs senior tight end Aron White. “That’s what we’ve been fighting for, that respect.”

The No. 14 Bulldogs have to win one more game at home against a bad Kentucky team next week to earn its first trip to the SEC Championship game since 2005. If they play half as well as they did Saturday between the hedges in the Deep South’s oldest rivalry, the East is as good as won by a team that started the season 0-2.

Saturday’s performance was perhaps the best all-around effort by Georgia since the closing stretch of the 2007 season when the Bulldogs finished No. 2 in the national polls. The folks who filled Sanford certainly hadn’t seen a show like this since the famous “blackout” game that year when the Bulldogs buried Auburn in a second-half beatdown.

“I can’t think of another game in this stadium where we played better offensively, defensively and special teams,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “It was definitely one of the top five or so games since I’ve been here.”

With the offense and defense hammering the Tigers in rolling up a 35-7 halftime lead, it was without a doubt the loudest its been between the hedges since that 2007 night. After safety Bacarri Rambo picked off an Auburn pass and weaved through a gauntlet of bodies for Georgia’s second touchdown in less than a minute in the second quarter, the decibel level hit ear-splitting.

“I haven’t heard a stadium erupt like that in a long time,” White said.

“Tennessee is the loudest stadium I’ve ever been in and I thought we were in Tennessee it was so loud,” Rambo said.

Critics will harp on Georgia’s soft schedule since losing the first two games against ranked teams. There were plenty of raised eyebrows when the Vegas oddsmakers set the Bulldogs as 13-point favorites over the Tigers. By halftime, it was clear that the bookies actually undersold Georgia, which claimed its first victory over a ranked foe since 2009 against Georgia Tech.

People will look back at the two fourth-down touchdowns in the comeback against Florida three weeks ago as a turning point, and you can’t argue the significance of those clutch plays against a longtime nemesis.

But if the Bulldogs keep improving like this, they might look back at that New Mexico State rout as a the first major building block to its newfound strut. Playing without its top four rushing options because of discipline or injury, the Bulldogs were forced to try new things offensively and scored 42 points in the second quarter.

In the past two romps, 13 different Bulldogs have scored and only one player (receiver Michael Bennett) has reached the end zone twice. After so much reliance on playmakers like A.J. Green in recent years, the Bulldogs offense is finally operating like a machine.

“We’re doing a great job of spreading it out and really keeping defenses honest because they don’t know who is going to get the ball,” said sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray. “It makes my job easier because people can’t just focus on one guy.”

The spread-the-wealth concept seems to have sparked an epiphany for Georgia’s game-planners. For the first time since Mike Bobo took over the play-calling in 2006, there seems to be more of a “system” to the offense instead of a just a bunch of disjointed plays.

Murray has settled into a rhythm that suits him perfectly.

With a mixture of shorter routes, back-shoulder throws and a few deep balls mixed in, he surpassed Matthew Stafford’s 2008 record for single-season touchdown passes with his 27 scoring strikes.

Murray was so efficient in the first half (13 for 16 for 216 yards and four touchdowns) that he only needed to throw the ball twice in the second half as Georgia dominated the time of possession (21:48) by rushing 33 times for 194 yards in Vince Dooley-era style.

“We ran the ball well when everybody in the stadium knew we were going to run the ball,” said Richt.

As good as the offense was, the defense was better. Auburn drove 76 yards on its opening drive to score on a trick play.

The rest of the first half the Tigers gained 13 yards on 20 plays and the game was essentially over.

“Short of the Sugar Bowl against Hawaii my true freshman year, I can’t say we’ve played a more complete game,” White said. “The way that we won really says something. It was a dominating win.”

Comparisons to that 2007 season are obvious. Except this Georgia team has a chance to go to the SEC title game and perhaps shock the nation against the presumptive best team.

Count Auburn quarterback Clint Moseley – who’s faced both Louisiana State University and Georgia – as a believer that the Bulldogs shouldn’t be counted out.

“Both teams know how to play defense,” Moseley said. “I don’t want to cause anything by making a prediction but it will be a great game.”

The odds of anyone thinking that a few weeks ago would have been astronomical.

Georgia’s evolution the next two weeks might shrink that doubt and the betting line even further.

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Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 11:15 am
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I do believe I said they

I do believe I said they would play in the championship game a few weeks ago. Now I think they'll win it.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 11/13/11 - 11:50 am
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Scott, can you touch on the

Scott, can you touch on the ramifications of Ark beating LSU?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 12:24 pm
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From the SEC website: THREE

From the SEC website:

THREE (OR MORE) TEAM TIE
1. (Once the tie has been reduced to two teams, go to the two-team tie-breaker format.)
2. Combined head-to-head record among the tied teams.
3. Record of the tied teams within the division.
4. Head-to-head competition vs. the team within the division with the best overall (divisional and non-divisional) Conference record and proceeding through the division. Multiple ties within the division will be broken from first to last.
5. Overall record vs. non-division teams.
6. Combined record vs. all common non-divisional teams.
7. Record vs. common non-divisional team with the best overall Conference (divisional and non-divisional) record and proceeding through other common non-divisional teams based on their order of finish within their division.
8. The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the last weekend of regular-season games shall be the divisional representative in the SEC Championship Game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the SEC Championship Game.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 04:37 pm
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I wish my other posts would

I wish my other posts would show up here. I explained why it will be Alabama, basically due to highest BCS ranking with the same record if Ark beats LSU.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 11/13/11 - 04:44 pm
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River, isn't it more

River, isn't it more complicated? I looked at Wiki and it says there is a seven step process with the BCS ranking being the last tie breaker.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/13/11 - 05:10 pm
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Riverman, you weren't the

Riverman, you weren't the first to pick Georgia to win the East after the S.C. loss. heer's my Tweet from Sept. 24:

ScottMichaux
Lee Corso says Georgia will win 8 games this season. Why so stingy? I say the Bulldogs win 10 (at least) and win SEC East. Sorry Gamecocks.
Sep 24, 10:46 AM via web

As for the tiebreaker, it is more complicated. If Arkansas beats LSU, it could create a three-way tie between three 11-1 teams that had a circular string of losses to each other. So it would revert to BCS standings. There is no guarantee that Alabama would be the highest, especially since LSU beat them in Tuscaloosa and has a far more significant schedule strength (beating Oregon and West Virginia). Here's the eighth and final tiebreaker from the SEC website:

8. The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the last weekend of regular-season games shall be the divisional representative in the SEC Championship Game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the SEC Championship Game.

So, even if Alabama was the highest BCS team, it wouldn't get the spot if LSU was the second highest because it's a lock that LSU would be within five places. But if Arkansas was the second highest, Bama would go. That scenario would switch if LSU was the highest and Arkansas was second. Bama third.

So in other words, if they all end up 11-1 they are all likely to be within five places of each other in the final regular season BCS standings. So it will come down to which order they are in with only the top two mattering.

Very confusing, certainly. Would be quite interesting. And if Georgia ended up beating one of them in the SEC Championship, it would create a complete mess for the BCS title game as far as the SEC is concerned because the two teams that REACHED the SEC championship game would have two losses and the ones that didn't would only have one loss but would have failed to even play for the SEC title. I so hope that scenario happens to completely cover the faces of BCS apologists with egg.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 05:29 pm
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Scott...lol...okay. But the

Scott...lol...okay. But the article said, "The odds of anyone thinking that a few weeks ago would have been astronomical."

Hey, this is starting to be like everyone trying to figure out who first broke the story about the TEE parking deck with everyone wanting to claim credit. No problem.... everyone knew it.

Justthefacts, I posted the process, but it's held up. Scott post the thing. But I went through it and I'll tell you the bottom line is the BCS rankings if Ark wins and that will mean AL gets it.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 05:31 pm
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Ahhhhh, Scott pulled his

Ahhhhh, Scott pulled his post. Heh. Don't worry, Scott, I have that effect on lots of people. Heck, I ever pull my own sometime because of things I say.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/13/11 - 05:33 pm
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I didn't pull my post. I was

I didn't pull my post. I was trying to add the second point and it disappeared. I can't seem to do anything on this website right now.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 05:34 pm
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I'm really starting to think

I'm really starting to think I'm imagining things when I read posts from Scott and then they are gone when I reply. Heh. Try again, Scott.

JTF, help me out here. Did I spend too much time at the VFW watching the game today or did Scott pull a post?

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/13/11 - 05:34 pm
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And the odds beig

And the odds beig astronomical I was referring to was anybody thinking any team from the SEC East could possibly beat LSU or Alabama.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 05:35 pm
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Okay, forget all that. It's

Okay, forget all that. It's AL if Ark beats LSU...all agree?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 05:37 pm
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I don't get this pessimissim

I don't get this pessimissim by you, JTF and others that UGA can't beat the west team? It's simply not true.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/13/11 - 05:47 pm
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No I don't agree. I've been

No I don't agree. I've been trying to post this for an hour.

Here's the eighth and final tiebreaker from the SEC's website:

8. The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the last weekend of regular-season games shall be the divisional representative in the SEC Championship Game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the SEC Championship Game.

So in other words, if Arkansas beats LSU and all three teams finish the regular season at 11-1 with circular wins against each other, they are all likely to be ranked within five places of each other in the BCS standings. So it will depend upon the order, with only the top two teams mattering. If Alabama is first and LSU second, LSU would go. If Bama is first and Arkansas second, Bama would go. So whoever is first better hope it beat whoever is second or they'll get jumped.

Personally, I think LSU would still be rated highest because of its quality wins over Oregon and West Virginia being better than anything the Bama.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 05:49 pm
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Here I am a Carolina fan

Here I am a Carolina fan (after Clemson) and I went out of my way along time ago to predict UGA would win the east and be "competitive" against the west team. Competitive is the word I used, I believe. I figured this out along time ago when I saw Carolina was weak. Make me feel unappreciated, will ya?

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/13/11 - 05:56 pm
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I am apparently not allowed

I am apparently not allowed to comment.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/13/11 - 05:57 pm
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Only quick hits. River an has

Only quick hits. River an has tiebreak scenario all wrong. Eventually my post may show up.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 05:58 pm
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Like I said on the other

Like I said on the other thread, the SEC Champion should always have a slot in the National Championship game against a play-off system where the other conference champions and number two teams play each other and then the winner plays Notre Dame. The winner of that plays the SEC champ.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/13/11 - 05:59 pm
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Here's the eighth and final

Here's the eighth and final tiebreaker from the SEC's website:
8. The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series
Standings following the last weekend of regular-season games shall be the
divisional representative in the SEC Championship Game, unless the second of the
tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied
team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams
shall determine the representative in the SEC Championship Game.

So in other words, if Arkansas beats LSU and all three teams finish the regular
season at 11-1 with circular wins against each other, they are all likely to be
ranked within five places of each other in the BCS standings. So it will depend
upon the order, with only the top two teams mattering. If Alabama is first and
LSU second, LSU would go. If Bama is first and Arkansas second, Bama would go.
So whoever is first better hope it beat whoever is second or they'll get jumped.
Personally, I think LSU would still be rated highest because of its quality wins
over Oregon and West Virginia being better than anything the Bama.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/13/11 - 06:00 pm
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I give up.

I give up.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/13/11 - 06:01 pm
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If Arkansas beats LSU, all

If Arkansas beats LSU, all three teams could be 11-1 with circular wins against each other.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 06:01 pm
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If they all have only one

If they all have only one loss, and they are within 5 places on the BCS poll of each other, the one who won the head to head will be selected. It all hinges on whether LSU would remain within 5 places behind ALA. Could happen. Maybe not.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 06:02 pm
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Scott, Notre Dame was a joke.

Scott, Notre Dame was a joke. Ha

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 06:03 pm
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Seriously, I laid out the SEC

Seriously, I laid out the SEC rules in my earlier post. Where the heck is it?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 06:05 pm
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Dang, the more I think about

Dang, the more I think about this, it could be LSU.....I give up, too.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/13/11 - 06:12 pm
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I give up trying to post.

I give up trying to post. Everything blocked by administrator.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/13/11 - 06:13 pm
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In the event of a 3-way tie,

In the event of a 3-way tie, it comes down to BCS. But the likelihood in this scenario is that all three will be ranked very high.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 11/13/11 - 06:28 pm
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Check my blog please for my

Check my blog please for my response.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/13/11 - 06:51 pm
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Anyone notice Carlos Rodgers

Anyone notice Carlos Rodgers and Deon Grant both from Augusta did pretty well in the NFL this weekend?

Auburn and Tenn, but both played downtown...Laney and Josey, I believe?

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